The Artist's Master Class; A Study in Values

Shift, ©2015, 8 I've been working closely with Lisa Call in her Artist's Master Class for the last 6 months. A combination of coaching, goal setting and support from fellow artists, the class has challenged me to examine the parts of my life that do NOT support my art/life.

Broken Nandina, 2015, 8

I've taken classes with Lisa before and the pace, challenges and comradery are exhilarating. I had expected the same approach in the Master Class. But initially, I was frustrated-- I wanted to move full speed ahead with my artwork. Instead, I discovered all the things that got in my way.

On the short list for roadblocks were my health and my job. My health was suffering because I was burning out from the intense pace of hospital art therapy. All the self care that I could muster; yoga, therapy, exercise, massage, you name it, didn't seem to budge my exhaustion or my myriad collection of maladies.

Lisa invited me to slow down and piece together the elements that weren't working. Then, I was to imagine what might help me grow stronger. I put down my ideas: acupuncture, more time with friends and more travel, less time in the studio. A couple of the myriad maladies began to melt away as I put my ideas into action.

My favorite exercise is one that cost nothing in time or money; a values inventory. I thought about the values that circumscribe my life: intuition, stewardship, tikkun o'lam*, healing, acknowledgement, responsibility, respect and compassion.

After coming up with my list, I decided to bring each of these values, one by one, into my art work. I was amazed--because I actually began to relax.

Nandina With Words, 2015, 8

Although I have deadlines for exhibits. I've began to be more thoughtful in my process; less let's get it done! and more  what is it that I'm doing?

And slowing down is good. It's hot, it's summer, but beyond that I'm simply enjoying the ride, curious to find out how my ideas about art will change as I do.

How do your values affect the art you make?

*A Jewish principle that means to heal the world, to fit the broken pieces together, and in modern terms to talk about fixing what is broken in society.

Is it Failure or Seasons of the Creative Process?

Recently there have been a number of blog posts, books and articles on the subject of failure. One such thread began with a question by artist Lisa Call who asked Artbiz coach, Alyson Stanfield:

Something Touched Me, ©2003, 11" x 14," Acrylic, collage, colored pencil on paper

“Is failure in your art practice something to be embraced, managed, or forgotten?”

Alyson answered in a follow up post, saying “The only failure is not trying your best.”

Lisa responded with a blog post, Failure Sucks. What happens, she asks, when despite all your best efforts (and perhaps skillful denials), you just get derailed?

"...In my opinion, the interesting part of the failure question: what do you do in between?"

All this talk about failure got me thinking. To a certain extent there are are flops that are best treated by brushing the dirt off your pants and getting back on the proverbial horse.

But often, things just die on the vine. Where does that fit into a culture obsessed with saving time; one that chops time into smaller and smaller bits, allowing us to leap from act to act and achievement to achievement without respecting the time it takes to pass through the stages of the creative process.

We forget to think about the seasons of the earth. There is no way to immediately replace a failed crop of wheat or corn, almonds or oranges. Farmers have to clear their fields, let the soil regenerate and wait for the next planting season.

When a tree drops it's leaves, it doesn't immediately sprout new ones, yet the buds are already in place for when the right time comes. Spring, summer, fall and winter; birth and rebirth, growth, harvest and hibernation.

The creative process is no different. There is incubation, growth and fruition of an idea. And when it doesn't work, sigh, the process needs to begin again. And you wait while an idea, the wave, builds. The time it takes to mature; that's the mystery; the awe inspiring and at the same time totally frustrating part, because we don't know how long it will take or what will result.

Lisa asked what do we do in between? Even though the idea may not have hit the shore, I think we can be skillful. We can cultivate a mindset, a state of mind that invites the ideas in.

The October, 2013, Atlantic article, Losing is the New Winning notes “Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?” asks the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in which she argues that a willingness to court failure can be a precursor to growth.

I'm curious. How do you face failure--or do you call it that? What do you do when something you've worked on for some time crashes to the ground?

Catching Up

TR.PEI.13 - Version 2

Sometimes it takes getting away from your predictable world to get a new perspective. This week, on Prince Edward Island, a tiny green gem of an island located in the Canadian Maritimes, I've had that opportunity .

PEI is the remnant of an ancient collision between the North American and African continents. Hard to believe, and even more difficult, that the gorgeous red sandstone cliffs ringing the island were once part of the Appalachian Mountains.

I wonder if and how such strange connections and dislocations might be happening around us all the time.

If you've read this blog for long, you know that I strive to balance my own realms of art and art therapy. It often seems that one tends to overwhelm the other.

With lots of time to sleep, beach walk and read, I've recovered stores of energy that I haven't felt for a long time. Particular truths rise to the top:

I can't help but to look at everything around me as though it were composed for a painting.

Wherever I go, my eyes are continually drawn to the children's activities.

A confirmation, in this faraway land, that I am where I need to be in all senses of the word: in the present moment as well as my life back home in Davis, Ca.


Recently in that studio across the continent, I've been doing some work with artist, Lisa Call as a tutor. I focused on these same ideas of balance and combination--studio and hospital, watercolor and fabric, monoprinting and quilting.

Still Quadrant, ©2011, 24" x 24," paper, cotton fiber, ink

I set out to experiment using an older collage piece (see Still Quadrant above) as an inspiration and example.  I wanted to return to using straighter lines, with subtler, not so apparent angles. I also wanted to introduce drawing onto the fabrics.

I decided to use some cloth that I'd cut out and pieced but hadn't worked in earlier compositions. Using these leftovers, I began to play. I drew patterns on a cutting board/printing plate with block printing ink and then, after placing scrap pieces on the plate, ran them through a monoprint press.

I liked the dark black stripes and circles that resulted and set about creating a composition with the squares and strips of fabric.

Juxtaposition, ©2013, H. Hunter, 11" x 13," Cotton fiber and ink

I remembered how difficult it was for me to consider tossing these leftover strips of cloth. In fact, I'm often drawn to remnants and remains. I can get obsessive, but that's part of the process too.

On my return, I'm looking forward to exploring more of this recombining of ink and fabric and adding some paper in there for good measure. After this trip to the PEI, who knows where exploring "off lines," or even off continent will take me?


Romp, ©2013, H. Hunter, 19" x 18," Quilted cotton cloth My apologies to any of you who may receive this twice. I was editing on 2 computers and accidentally pressed "Publish" before I was done. Here's to "blogsence"!

I went over to my friend's house Saturday for some studio time--playtime really. As we talked and caught up, she said that she hadn't received any of my posts for a while and thought that perhaps there was something wrong with the delivery system.

"Um, well, no, not exactly. Its just that I haven't been writing them." As I was leaving later that afternoon, my friend pointed out her calendar to me. I thought she might want to show me an amazing picture. What she pointed to was a series of red dots, extending from the end of April and into the beginning of May.

Pictures that she's sold? I wondered. No, it turned out that these were days that she planned to keep free with no obligations. That explains my blogsence* perfectly. I was taking time to catch up with myself around the edges of work and family.

I also threw myself into an exciting online quilting class with Lisa Call: "Cutting and Piecing Without a Ruler,"

I loved it from start to finish. Lisa's critiques were supportive, and gave me great ideas about how I could build upon what I had learned in class.

Although we pieced a number of projects in class, I didn't quilt them, that is, I didn't add batting and backing and stitch the whole sandwich together. In fact, I've rarely stitched a quilt sandwich and am reluctant to do so.

Gathering courage in hand, I put together a kind of sampler piece that I could practice on. I read various instructions, gazed through books with images of completed quilts and began.

After quilting the first few sections, I was convinced that I would never do anything like this again. Eventually, I got a rhythm going and it was fun, and the action of pushing the fabric through the machine, turning it at regular intervals and watching the pattern emerge was soothing.

By the time I finished, I was ready to begin again (this reminds me of when I gave birth to my first child and was so thrilled by meeting him, I was ready to do it all over, I know it's a stretch to compare childbirth to quilting, but it was pretty cool.)

I decided to take detail shots of the piece above and divide it into roughly 4 sections, exploring the possibilities inherent in each one. So that's what I'm doing. My iron is ready: full steam ahead!

Romp, detail

*Blogsence: Absence from blogs and blog writing